Wednesday

Herb Cain

Coaches love a player who practices as hard as he plays. Herb Cain was an enthusiastic and gifted skater who fits the previous description. However his energetic approach almost killed him in one infamous practice in 1939.

Montreal Maroons manager Tommy Gorman believed too many of his veterans were lugging the puck behind the net prior to the heading for the opposition's territory. Before a practice session, Gorman decided to block off the area behind the net by attaching a rope to the goal and extending it to each of the side boards. The players weren't allowed to skate behind their goal before starting a rush.

Herb Cain was the first player on the ice. Unfortunately for Cain, no one told him or his teammates that the obstructive barrier had been erected. In a typical and energetic fashion, Cain stepped on the ice and quickly was in full flight. He eyed a puck which happened to be sitting a few feet behind the rope. Herb was so focused on the puck he failed to notice the rope.

Cain was reportedly flying at about 20 miles per hour when he was clothes-lined by the rope. He quickly became entangled in the rope and with the moment behind him, began whirling upside down like a Ferris Wheel. He would eventually land on his back and was knocked unconscious.

As vicious as this incident was, Cain's injury was not serious.

Fortunately Cain had better times with the Maroons. With line-mates Bob Gracie and Gus Marker, Cain was the shining emerald of "The Green Line." The trio led the English Montrealers to the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1935.

In November of 1939 he was traded to Boston where he would emerge as one of hockey's top players. In 1943-44, while playing on a line with Bill Cowley and Art Jackson, set the NHL record for points in one season with 82. A very popular player with the Bruins fans, Cain's other big moment with the Bruins came in 1945-46 when he became just the 13th player in NHL history to score 200 goals in a career.

His departure from Boston left the bitterest of memories for Cain. Art Ross, the Bruins boss, decided Cain's career in the NHL was over. Though other teams inquired about his services, Ross was determined to bury Cain, a 2nd team all star just two years earlier, in the minor leagues.

Why? Turns out Cain held out for more money one year in Boston. Nowadays players withholding their services for more money is commonplace, but back then it simply was not done, and anyone who tried was punished. Cain was punished by being sent down to AHL Hershey with the condition that Hershey could not sell him to any NHL club.

The banishment was doubly embittering for Cain. In addition to the humiliation of being removed from the NHL, Cain would not be able to qualify for the new NHL pension. Some believe this punishment also kept him out of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He remains the only eligible former NHL scoring champion yet to be inducted into the the Hall.

"The NHL was like a little house league then," Cain told Brian McFarlane in the book The Bruins. "The six owners simply made up their own rules, called each other up and made deals, and settled things among themselves. They players had no clout, no say in anything."

In 1955 he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease, the same cancer that Mario Lemieux would make famous many decades later. Back then there was little hope of his survival, so Cain agreed to become the human guinea pig for a serum that had positive effects in animal testing. Miraculously Cain's health was restored and he lived for another thirty years, gaining employment with a sheet metal company.

Cain, who passed away in 1982, played in 570 NHL games and scored 206 goals and 400 points.

12 comments:

Anonymous,  8:53 AM  

I just found out about the injustice of his banishment from the Hall of Fame. I believe some hard lobbying should be done so we can get him in!

Anonymous,  12:52 AM  

As a relative of Mr. Cain's, it is a disgrace that he is the only former scoring leader and 2 time Stanley Cup Champion who is not inducted. Art Ross might have been the man of the hour with a lot of clout back in the 40's but it's time to put the politics aside. The Hall of Fame is nothing but a crony pleasing organization.

marycain3 1:20 PM  

My father-in-law, "Lawrence (Dutch) Cain was a cousin of Herb Cain. Also born in Newmarket, Ont. Dutch was on the Memorial Cup team in 1924.
My husband, (son of Dutch) was also diagnosed with Hodkgins Disease, and looked remarkably like Herb Cain. They met at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Oncology Dept. when they both responded to a call for "Mr. Cain. My family all agree that Herb Cain should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Anonymous,  6:55 PM  

dear sir i was reading about herbie cain and i am disgusted that he is not in the hall of fame.herbie coached our newmarket smoke rings to the ontario championship in 1957 58 season he was a great coach i should know i was the goaltender yours truly vinny vanstone

Anonymous,  10:22 AM  

Bill Cowley his cetre ice man is in the Hll of Fame . Herb should be there also, he got the assistes and herb got the goals. in the 40ties.

Deborah Knight 9:31 AM  

I'm also a relative of Herb Cain and I remember visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame as a kid to see his name on the Stanley Cup. My brothers and I were so proud that Uncle Herb was there! I didn't realize that he was never inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That's a real tragedy! Herb was one heck of a great player...and an all around good guy. If anyone puts together a group to petition on his behalf, count me in!

Derek 12:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek 9:23 AM  

I agree 100% that Herb Cain was a great NHL hockey player. In Boston he was a 3rd line player and that is what made the Bruins so strong from 39 to 41 is that they had 3 lines that could do damage. There are 2 reasons for Cain's career high totals in 1943, 44, and 45. 1) Bill Cowley was his line-mate and 2) The NHL was more equivalent to an AHL league in these years. Before the depleted rosters during the war Cain played 9 NHL seasons and reached the 30 point mark 3 times. He never turned into a better player in his 10th, 11th and 12th seasons.
He dropped in 1945-46 because the Kraut line returned and Cowley missed 24 games. He was sent to the minors in 1946-47 because Boston had a lot of good young players like Don Gallinger, Bep Guidolin, Ken Smith and Joe Carveth. Cain was 34 years old in 1946-47 (only Dit Clapper was older - and Cowley was same age). Cain was a great player but not necessarily Hall of Fame material.

Derek 5:32 AM  

He was described as a tricky puck handler and an exceptionally good skater.

Mike HOLLETT 7:57 AM  

HI again! greetings from christmas past. My dad and yours were thebest of friends. I remember their long Talks together. They got the same dirty deal from Ross and Adams and now the Hall of Fame. I am to publish a book about that era and intend to leave no stone unturned. Set the clocks right so to speak. I'd like you to contact me at your earliest convenience. mike.lynn.hollett@gmail. Amitiés Mike

Mary Cain 8:37 PM  

My son, Tom Cain, has been working tirelessly for the past six or seven years, (with permission from Herb's daughter) to have Herb Cain inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This is an injustice and is long overdue!! He has collected so much information about Herb's career. I know he would appreciate any support for this 'wrong to be put right"

Brian222 5:46 AM  

I played with a Terry Cain late 1950's in Newmarket..also Randy Legge,Tom Sinclair..anyone remember more?

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